Not everything is free, or open source, in a developer's life. If you're looking for inspiration about what to get for that special programmer in your life this Christmas, here are some ideas that would make excellent gifts.
Why not accept the stereotypes and buy a geeky tshirt from ThinkGeek. Microsoft recently launched a Softwear range of tshirts that would win some extra points with any developer. You can get nice official Apple tshirts at the company store in 1 Infinite Loop, if you happen to be in the area.
Hardware that makes programming a more pleasant experience is the real way to a developer's heart. A new laptop, whether it's a Macbook Pro or an Alienware machine is at the top end. A new monitor could be a welcome gift, but might end up being expensive.
For cheaper options check out accessories, such as an erogonomic mouse/keyboard or even Apple's Magic Trackpad. There's a huge amount of smartphone and iPad addons available too.
And how about the iCooly UBoard - the nicest docking station I've ever seen.
Books, Books, Books
Whether in traditional paper format, or as ebooks, there is a huge array of books available for software developers. Check out the following article for some books I recommended a while back. Non-language specific books can be easier to digest, and are a safer gift. I would recommend the following:
Some books that would help to inspire:
Finally, A Book Apart have a bundle of six books, available in print or electronic formats, that is a perfect gift for a web designer.
The Gift Of App Development
Whether they admit it or not, most software developers want to get a piece of the app store action. In terms of making money, iOS probably still has the edge, but the developer program costs $99 per year. Why not splash out and encourage someone to give it a go by buying the subscription for them. You could really top off the gift by including a book to help them get started, like Head First iPhone & iPad Development.
If you do a search for something that's USB powered, chances are it'll be welcomed and will take pride of place at a programmer's desk (for a few days at least). There's no lack of ideas at ThinkGeek, from Star Trek Enterprise pizza cutters, rear view monitor mirrors to binary watches. If it looks almost useless to a non-developer, it's probably priceless.
Branded stuff for the desk is also a good gift. The Google Store has some excellent stuff, from Google-branded mugs to laptop sleeves to photo frames.
There's a nice list at nerdholiday.tumblr.com with some more ideas, including QR-code wrapping paper and Nintendo Monopoly.
Have you any other suggestions? What would be on your Christmas list?